Monday, June 1, 2009
Superstar Athletes as Role Models
LeBron James is taking some lumps in the media for modeling poor sportsmanship after not shaking hands with opponents following elimination from the NBA Conference Finals.
This is a topic that spawns common questions and heated debate. To the question "are they role models", I say "yes". To the question "are they GOOD role models", I say "yes and no".
Are They Role Models?
In the sense that many look up to them and emulate their behaviors, they are role models. This is not in dispute; superstars have influence.
Are They Good Role Models?
In the sense that most professional athletes (and virtually all superstars) arrived at the pinnacle of their professions through tremendous hard work, focus, and dedication, I think that they all have attributes worthy of modeling. Because many have also been coddled by society and allowed to bend the rules by which the rest of us live, there is a certain prevalence of anti-social behavior among elite athletes. I would hope that our children do not aspire to incorporate similar elements into their own lives.
The bottom line in LeBron's recent actions (not shaking hands and then skipping the post-game press conference) is that those decisions really only hurt him and his marketability as a brand. No one else can really claim to be harmed by his actions (even parents who mistakenly think it is up to celebrity athletes to teach their kids about sportsmanship). Those are decisions that he is wholly entitled to make as he sees fit.
I tend not to be too judgmental about these things. I think we saw LeBron in an emotionally difficult position and he made a bit of an immature decision about how to handle it. It was a minor gaff on an otherwise remarkably clean record of accountability.
And by the way, for any alert parents whose children follow Lebron, this provided an excellent opportunity to teach a child about sportsmanship.
Posted by Dennis Fortier at 11:08 PM